It is a treasure, conjuring the purest of sentiments and eliciting the truest and deepest forms of emotion: music. Infinitely provoking and universally compelling, spanning cultures and generations, music is widely enjoyed by all who encounters it. It brings peace to the soul, light to our lives.
Throughout the history of art, artists have sought to join the universal experience of music with the visual arts. One such artist was French sculptor Jules-Felix Coutan, who sought to enhance the public’s interaction with beautiful music through his remarkable sculptural works. His bronze work, Music (1880), in particular, truly exemplifies Coutan’s unique approach. In his characteristic naturalistic style that nods back to Classical taste, Coutan captures the personification of music itself. A striking ninety-two inches compromises this exquisite bronze sculpture of an elegant female figure, torch in one hand and instrument in the other. Graceful in proportion and fluidity, Coutan successfully evokes the essence and spirit of music. Earning international reputation, the works of Coutan are highly revered, and his style left a lasting impression on students following him.
Small, yet powerful, music can also be found in exquisite objets d’art such as this Swiss musical snuff box. Also called “carillons à musique,” these small, portable music boxes were highly coveted among European elite and often served as a sign of status and prestige. Crafted in 1820, this intricately decorated box is covered in ornate gold foliate that speaks to the swirling musical tones that the box creates when opened. This rare objet d’art would have easily fit in a gentleman’s waist pocket.
More monumental in size are the upright music boxes that pre-dated the modern day jukebox. The Regina Music Box Company of New York was one of the foremost successful and creative artistic producers of these mechanically-complex music machines. Carved in all over incredible detail, this Regina oak music box would have served as a pleasant alternative to live music in a home or business. In peaceful melodies, this music box plays up to 15½” discs with the incredible sound quality for which the Regina Company is known. Completing the piece is an exquisite lithograph of the company’s namesake, Regina, under the lid, venerating her as the “Queen of Music.” Set on a beautiful table to complete a room, this statement making rare music box is truly one of a kind.
Much larger, though equally inspiring, is the Arburo Orchestrion Organ by Bursens and Roels. Crafted entirely by hand, this Art Deco-style cabinet was once a common fixture in popular, bustling dance halls. Exhibited at the Arburo Centennial Exhibition in 2008, this hand-crafted, made to order piece is unlike any other – no two were ever alike. What is most interesting and unique about this piece, however, is that it incorporates the beauty of stand-alone instruments with the fascinating realm of mechanics. A 168-pipe organ, triangle, drums, and accordion are included within the mechanical system. Once started, electrical power reads perforated music rolls which are then read to control each instrument inside. The organ allowed the musical volume to be clear and loud enough for even the most lively, busy venues. The music produced is extraordinary, a delight to one’s ears. Today, very few examples of these musical marvels exist, especially in the exceptional working condition of this Orchestrion.